For this first essay, pick ONE of the following questions. The essay should be no longer than 1500 words (approximately 7.5 pages). Please be sure to respond to all parts of each question, though the order in which you do so is entirely up to you. You should spend approximately 5 pages engaging directly with the theorists from the subject, and approximately 2 pages exploring the relevance of their theoretical framework for understanding one of the contemporary socio-political events listed at the end of this assessment guide. We expect you to use at least three references, which should be drawn either (a) from the recommended readings section of the subject guide or (b) from sources referred to in the assigned readings.
We will be looking for two things:
(1) A close and textured reading of the primary theorists. This is exceedingly important. For this essay, we are asking you to return to the readings and to engage the arguments of our theorists with detail and care, drawing directly from the texts to support your central points. (80%)
(2) A critical engagement with the strengths and limitations of the theoretical framework in question via an analysis of one relatively contemporary event. How does the framework you have been exploring shed light on the event in question? What questions does it demand that we ask of that event? And what do you want to know more about that the framework does not help you to answer? (20%)
1) Both Marx and Taussig call our attention to the alienating effects of commodity fetishism, many of which remain very much with us in the contemporary world. What is commodity fetishism? How, according to Marx, does it serve to disguise labor exploitation? What does attention to the pre-capitalist forms of fetishism described by Taussig help us to see about the contemporary workings of capitalism (and in particular, its effects on social relations)? And how does commodity fetishism help us (or fail to help us) understand one of the following recent events?